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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Well, It Hit the Fan. Now What?

Something unsavory hits the fan. Who ya gonna call?
After you clean it up, who ya gonna blame?
Then, what are you going to do?
Why do things go wrong?
Things go wrong because the process didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Maybe it was the wrong process. Maybe it used to be the right process, but now it doesn’t work any more. Maybe it never really worked, and a final, fatal straw fluttered down onto the overload.
Or did someone miss a step, or botch the execution, or not know the right process?
Whatever happened, it has someone’s fingerprints on it. The one constant in every human activity is that it’s human – it has people in it. Some person designed the process. Someone oversees the process. Other humans employ the process and/or are affected by it.
If the process fixes itself, then it’s a self-correcting process, and humans designed it to be so. Most processes can’t do that, and human intervention is necessary.
When the process goes awry, someone did something that disrupted it. And it’s people who then must repair the damage, fix the problem and do something about why it happened.
So the operative factor always is the human being. How effectively do we prepare people to invent, conduct, fix and modify their processes?

This is a precautionary thought about the current emphasis on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
There is absolutely no question that high competency in the skills of those categories is essential to the furtherance of our wellbeing, as individuals and as a society. No argument there.
Yet, every manager knows how reliance on those competencies alone will not consistently achieve success. When the credentials and the quantifiable assets of education and experience are all in place, there still are shortfalls and breakdowns, plenty of them.
Too many inadequate processes never change. Too many problems continue, or recur. There’s too much disharmony. Too much disengagement. Too much waste of potential. Too little constructive enthusiasm.
There are reasons for that problem with the fan. Just because the causes aren’t discussed doesn’t mean they aren’t obvious. What would it be like to do something about them?

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